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Federal Proposal Prohibits Healthcare Discrimination Based on a Person’s Disability

By: McKenzie Richmond, KTUL Staff

Published: April 18th, 2024 at 2:24pm 

A proposed amendment to Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act aims to help eliminate healthcare discrimination for those living with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

The amendment will prohibit discrimination based on a person’s disability.

The language will clarify obligations that our health systems must meet to achieve equitable healthcare for patients.

Right now, medical experts say a lack of IDD training and inherent bias continue to lead to significant health disparities for people with disabilities.

“There is evidence to show they have lower rates of preventive health screenings,” Dr. Craig Escudé, family physician and president of IntellectAbility, said. “People with intellectual disabilities have a 2.5 times increase in risk of dying from cancer. We know that people with IDD die at a younger age than people without intellectual and developmental disabilities and the thing is it’s not usually attributed to the fact they have IDD itself.”

A vital step to improve healthcare outcomes for people with IDD is increasing training.

“We know medical schools, nursing schools, most health care professional skills are lacking in training clinicians to meet the healthcare needs of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” Escudé said. “That leads to biases. That leads to assumptions that are made that people with IDD have a lower quality of life. That leads to health disparities and deprioritization.”

“I learned very quickly how ill-prepared I was to treat patients with IDD,” Escudé said.

The proposed rule highlights the need for more training, emphasizing the importance for clinicians to learn the different ways patients with IDD may communicate their symptoms, so healthcare workers can make more accurate clinical diagnoses and provide better treatment.

“They may not be able to say, ‘My tooth is hurting, I need to go to the dentist’,” Escudé said. “What they may do is hit themselves in the face because it hurts right there or hit their head on the wall.”

Beyond education, the rule change calls for accessible medical equipment.

“If a person can’t have access to cancer screening, like a mammogram, because they don’t have equipment that they can appropriately utilize then you’re going to misdiagnose. It will lead to delayed diagnosis and treatments.”

If signed into law, this amendment would improve healthcare equity for the 42 million Americans living with IDD.

In Oklahoma alone, more than 600 thousand Oklahomans report living with one or more disabilities, meaning this amendment would impact more than 16% of the population.

Published by: KTUL


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